“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; … I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life …”
~ Henry David Thoreau
The woods call us.
There is something about the mystical spell they cast upon our souls, weary from the pressures and crush of life spent in highly-dense cities, and the ever-busy push toward the quest for more. When we get to the woods, we exhale and inhale, deeply. We slow down. We begin to look around and take time to actually see. We can hear ourselves think – and we can begin to hear the whisperings of our inner voice.
Even if a small town is your home, often one is not immune to getting caught up in the pace of modern living; our tendency to over schedule and over commit keeps an ongoing demand on our free time. We blink, and we’re turning the page on our calendars; each year seems to pass more quickly than the last.
Knowing that life is meant to be more than a blur of appointments and commitments, we look to the mountains – to the woods – for respite and healing.
What is it about these ancient, soft mountains that beckon us to take time out, visit, spend quality time here, or create one’s life here?
Like Thoreau, I believe we have an intuitive understanding that there is more than solace gained from time spent in the woods. We have an inkling, something that came to us during a drive or perhaps a long soak in the tub, that space and quiet hold answers for us – solutions – to gnawing questions.
If we could immerse ourselves in the serene solitude of the woods, we will be closer to some kind of ancient, shared wisdom; it is as if the old growth of the forest gathers up all the insights, ideas, and break through thoughts from all of those who walked her woods before, and scatters them back to new travelers and seekers.
The woods tap your shoulder and invite you to lean in and listen – something we rarely afford ourselves. There, in that stretch of time that is empty except for your breathing, newly-formed creative thoughts tentatively emerge. Connections form. Understanding surfaces. Epiphanies pop up like dandelions in spring. Decisions are made. Who we truly are awakens.
Exhilaration. Courage. Clarity.
Of course, one can find this alignment in a multitude of beautiful, natural sites across the globe. Why, then, do we all seem so particularly taken with the Appalachian Mountains and her miles of woods and trails? I have hiked the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra, the Himalayas, and through woods all over the world (and have truly enjoyed each of those experiences). While beautiful to traverse, none, however, delivered the other-worldly energy found here atop the Highlands Plateau.
Like a serene and deeply kind and loving grandmother, these mountains hold you in a nurturing embrace, while giving you space to find solid ground beneath your feet. She urges you to climb, reach for the stars, live in accord with your true self, and give yourself the gift of rest.
It is here in these mountains that we may begin, at last (or try anew), the ultimate act of creation and leadership – that of creating our best life.